The Sideline Story Needed More Time on The Bench

By: Danny Selazek
When the future of Hip Hop was in serious jeopardy, around 2007, little known North Carolina rapper J Cole released his album, The Come Up, and cemented himself at the forefront of the future of Hip Hop. Ranging from deeply personal to ill brags to hopeful aspirations of being king (thanks to an adopted persona of Simba of Lion King fame), The Come Up was critically acclaimed and started off a trifecta of some of the best mix-tapes in recent memory. While J Cole was working on his next mix-tape, The Warm Up, a leaked song got the attention of legend Jay Z, who made J Cole the first member of his new record label, Roc Nation, in 2009. Followed up by Friday Night Lights in 2010, all was set for Cole to release his debut LP to the world that winter.
Then…nothing. Delay after delay plagued Cole’s schedule, and the buzz was dying. When he finally put out one single, “Who Dat,” it failed to gather any sort of mainstream attention that Jay Z wanted, so the album got pushed back even more. Finally, after nearly two years of sitting on the sideline, Cole somehow managed to put out Cole World: The Sideline Story (get it?). Cole went from emotional to wimpy, and the few tracks taken off his mix-tapes were not the strongest.
Also, can I just bring something up? Why does J Cole look like he’s about to cry in every single picture? He looks like Eeyore, straight up.
The albums suffer from three main problems:
1. Cole doesn’t sound hungry throughout the entire album. Listening to it from start to finish, you can clearly tell what songs were written in the early stages of recording, and which ones were written when he just wanted to get the album out.
2. There is way too much filler. It bloats the albums to be unbearably long. The LP would’ve been a great EP. When your album is 60 minutes, and feels like it’s 75, there’s a problem.
3. There is way too much appeal to the mainstream. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it feels like Cole was forced into it (similar to Lupe Fiasco and Lasers). Despite Cole’s claim to be 100% behind the final product, compared to his earlier work, it seems far too poppy.
Cole self produces most of the album, and most of it holds up, though at times it seems too melodramatic, making the subject matter of songs seem too over the top. Some songs lose a bit of their meaning.
Cole World is average. Too much fluff, not enough substance. The beats can get annoying and the songs have some of the corniest lines I have ever heard, especially “Cole’s heatin’ up like left over lasagna.” I want to know who was sitting in the studio when he recorded that, because if I were there, I would’ve stopped the recording and smacked him for saying that. Still, the old Cole still shines through the second half of the disk. I’d buy the album. J Cole a great artist who needs support and you could waste you money on much worse things.
Overall: Three Eeyores out of Five